We’re having a girl! I’m over-the-moon happy. We wanted a son and a daughter. God willing, we’ll have both.
But why am I happy? I shouldn’t care. It should only be her health I’m concerned about, right? Right.
But, a girl… *sigh*
I always wanted a girl. In all honesty, I always wanted a boy, too. I was once a nanny to two young boys and they were simply amazing. I was smitten. So, when I found out Judah was a boy, I was thrilled. Not because of all the things that supposedly come with being a boy, but because I thought maybe I would have grand adventures again, like I did as a nanny. And maybe my kid would be amazing, too.
Let me be clear – grand adventures will be had with my daughter. And I don’t want a daughter because I want to dress her like a little doll and parade her around. (I don’t.) It’s not because I’m excited to decorate her room in various shades of pink. (I’m not. In fact, no pink, please.) And it’s really not because I want to share all the Disney princesses with her. (I hate princess culture.) When I strip away all the girlie things, all that’s left is her anatomy. So, why does the fact my unborn child has a vagina matter?
My son’s new favorite movie is Marry Poppins. His favorite part is “Steppin’ Time.” Though, I really love the part when Glynis Johns (the mother) bursts into the house singing “Sister Suffragette.”
“Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, ‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!'”
I sing along (until Judah shushes me) and this line gets me choked up every time. I think the reason I’m excited to have a girl resides here.
When parents have a gender reveal party everyone makes a big deal about the prospect of this little person being a “girl” or a “boy.” Pink balloons are released into the air, or blue filling oozes from a slice of cake. Surprise! As if we already know how this baby will identify in the world, whom they will love, or what pronouns they’ll prefer. We don’t know. We celebrate boyishness and girlishness when what we should really celebrate is this child’s freedom to choose from all of the above.
When I found out I was having a boy, I asked my friends and family to refrain from buying him overly boyish clothes. Nothing with sports symbols. Nothing that says, “Little Man.” Blue was okay, but not too much blue. Gray is a nice color.
But as gender neutral as I try to be in my parenting, I am not.
Last December, we took a trip to Disney World. Jude noticed Tinker Belle on a poster and asked about her. I explained she was a fairy and that we would see her during the fireworks the next day. He was enamored with her. He noticed her everywhere we went and pointed her out. “Yes, that’s Tink!” I’d affirm, like it was a celebrity spotting.
I suggested we get him a little Tinker Belle something while we were there. Like, maybe a Tinker Belle eraser or key chain. My husband and mother-in-law (God bless them!) picked out the fanciest Tinker Belle doll in the shop. I mean, if you’re going fairy, go all the way, right? Tink went everywhere with us for the rest of the trip.
Now, had he been a girl, I would have down-played Tink or completely ignored every reference to her. And I certainly would not have suggested we pop into that dreadful Fantasyland princess shop and buy anything. Whatsoever.
But he is a boy. So, we embrace all the princesses. I created a YouTube playlist of my favorite princess songs. (Because I can hate princess culture and still love the songs. Humans are so complex, aren’t we?) I cue it up and we sing “Let it go” and “Part of Your World.” And sometimes I get choked up.
Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. I’d rather think of it like this: I’m going to follow their lead, wherever that takes us. And I’ll be especially encouraging when it comes to non-traditional, non-gender-conforming interests. My son is curious about princesses? Great! Here’s a princess doll; let’s see what fun adventures she will have! My daughter is curious about rocket ships? Awesome! Here’s a kit; let’s build one together and see if we can make it fly!
What I realize now is, when it comes to the typical stuff, I have to be right there to help them navigate that, too. In doing so, my hope is that we’ll steer clear of all the negative stereotypes that come with their assigned genders. My son can have fun in sports without internalizing the notion that men are natural aggressors. And my daughter can enjoy wearing tutus without believing on some level that women are meant to be on display. Though this can’t happen unless I am aware, and diligent about countering the powerful messages they will receive from the outside world.
At the end of the day, my joy in having a son or a daughter can’t be tied to gender. It just can’t. Doing so creates too many expectations. The joy comes from the ways they will surprise me, delight me, and make me proud for simply being themselves – whomever they may be. And I’m not excited to have a girl because I can now raise a feminist. I’m already doing that. His name is Judah.
What I am excited (and determined) to do is raise a self-confident, bold, and strong girl. I want her to know being sensitive and kind doesn’t make her weak – it’s her superpower. I want her to be so assured in her identity that gender never deters her (knowingly or unknowingly) from following her interests. I want her to have what it took me a couple decades to find, and I want her to have these tools before the world steps in and tries to make a mess of her (because with girls it always does).
I know her sexuality and gender will be determined by her, not myself or her doctor. Still, her path will be decidedly different from mine even if she does identify as a straight woman. Whatever identity unfolds for her, I’d like to think there will be a sister suffragette within her throwing her fist into the air and making this world a little better – right beside me, her brother, and her father.
And my son? It turns out he is amazing. I know my daughter will be just as amazing. Together, our little family will have many grand adventures.
“Shoulder to shoulder into the fray.”